Thinking about needing emergency healthcare is a scary thought. If you live in a rural community where the nearest hospital is miles and miles away from you, it can be even scarier. That's exactly what a panel of experts discussed at the Eriksson Alumni Center Monday.
"The Administrator of CMS looked around the room," explained Robert Milvet, the representative from Preston Memorial Hospital on the panel about a previous meeting. "And said why can't you convince your population to use public transportation to access the next closest hospital? Tell that to somebody in Tunnelton in February waiting for the Buckwheat Express.. It's not coming."
The Rural Healthcare Forum addressed what is needed to provide healthcare to rural America and the underlying questions faced with that issue.
The forum also invited the community to voice it's concerns. It was hosted by WVU's Dr. Gordon Gee and Congressman David McKinley. McKinley says one problem is that rural communities aren't represented as well as metropolitan areas in Washington, D.C.
"We have to understand that rural areas do not have that kind of number. Alaska has one congressman, the Dakotas one a piece," said McKinley. "We're blessed West Virginia has three, but the metropolitan Pittsburgh area has five. So we're just outnumbered, but what we can do perhaps is raise the awareness level of what healthcare is like in rural America and maybe we'll be able to push back in another way."
Milvet and the rest of the panel agreed that most people just don't understand difficulties rural communities face with healthcare.
"The weight of policy, the weight of regulation, the misunderstanding of not all of our policy makers, but our administrators at these agencies who don't necessarily come and visit rural areas, like perhaps we experience here in the room today, is an uphill battle for us," Milvet said.
The panel included experts from across the state that had different knowledge on why rural healthcare is so important. Including, representatives from Highmark West Virginia, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, Bruce McClymonds, the president and CEO of WVU Hospitals, and other employees from WVU Healthcare.